PANC 2016: Value Propositions of Home Offices

The interaction between advisers and home offices continues to change in light of the fiduciary rule and other pressures, opportunities.

Among the closing panels at the 2016 PLANADVISER National Conference was a session focused on the evolving relationship between advisers and their supervising home offices.

Flash polling at the start of the session showed the strong majority (75%) of attending advisers feel the support services they receive from their broker/dealer (B/D) home offices is either good or excellent. Another polling question revealed the vast majority are working with B/Ds with a primary focus on retirement plans.

Many cited co-fiduciary backing, compliance oversight, retirement plan analysis tools and prospecting expertise as absolutely critical elements of home office support, and this makes sense, according to Jimmy Owen, managing partner with GRP Advisor Alliance. “We are seeing a big focus right among advisers on creating efficiencies and practice protections,” he explained.

“The message we are getting in the marketplace is that, as advisers, you want your job to be about taking care of your clients, and doing the right thing by them,” Owen said. “You want the B/D there to do the back office support work, to free you up to learn about your clients and their unique needs..”

Jason Benham, director of retirement services for Independent Financial Group, agreed, adding that he also hears advisers “talking about, first and foremost, doubling down on their commitment to client service.”

“In addition to this, they are coming to the home office looking for educational opportunities; they want home office expertise available not just in the sense of a call center. They want to be able to dial in and reach a subject matter expert they have a personal relationship with, on demand,” he observed.

NEXT: Adviser feedback matters  

Jillian White, senior manager for retirement plan solutions at Cetera Financial Group, highlighted advisers’ search for guidance on how to respond to the pressures of the Department of Labor’s new fiduciary standard.

“At Cetera, for example, we have recently come out with a DOL response website tailored for plan advisers,” she said. “We have one version publically available and one that is more robust but kept internal. The leading advisers are already charging ahead and grasping for this new source of opportunity.”

All three panelists agreed that direct adviser feedback is hugely important for setting the agenda in terms of what the home office is going to do next.

“We are a smaller shop so perhaps it’s a bit easier for us,” said Benham, “but we have some tremendous bottom-up feedback driving some of our newest initiatives. We also have top-down ideas as well that we implement in a collaborative way. It’s a very tight feedback loop that we find brings about the best results.”

In terms of future projects, panelists mentioned ideas around succession planning “that is more than just a buy-sell agreement or a handshake agreement with another rep down the street.”

“It goes without saying that the value proposition is going to have to pivot for a lot of advisers in the emerging environment,” White said. “Now that the playing field has been leveled by fiduciary reform and fee compression, we need to focus on helping advisers build and prove their value proposition. Having a suit of resources available to respond to DOL changes and everything else is key.”